The government increased protection efforts. In 2020, the government identified 199 victims and NGOs an additional five victims (127 sex trafficking victims and 77 labor trafficking victims), a significant increase from 102 victims identified by the government and three additional victims identified by an international organization in 2019. Of the 204 victims, 127 were Venezuelan, 27 Haitian, 24 Dominican, 22 Guyanese, three Jamaican, and one Cuban. Of these, 151 were female and 53 male, with ten of them being children. The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security’s (MHSSS’s) Counter-Trafficking (C-TIP) Unit identified victims and provided social welfare and assistance to victims. In fiscal year 2020, the government reported that the C-TIP Unit received a budgetary allocation of 25.86 million GYD ($120,270) and in fiscal year 2021, 37.67 million GYD ($175,230). In cooperation with an international organization and a foreign donor, authorities developed but did not yet implement standard operating procedures for victim identification pending an additional government review.
During the reporting period, the government referred 100 victims to shelter or protective services, compared with 99 victims in 2019. Authorities opened a new shelter for trafficking victims in a rural district, bringing the total number of government-operated shelters offering specialized care, including food, training, translation, legal services, medical services, and psychological therapy, for trafficking victims to five. The government also provided 62.35 million GYD ($290,000) in 2020 to two NGO-managed shelters providing housing for adult female victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking, an increase from 2.35 million GYD ($10,930) in 2019. The NGO shelters provided victims with the same range of services as the government-operated shelters. The government provided 4.52 million GYD ($21,000) in direct financial assistance to victims who chose not to stay in a shelter, an increase from 2 million GYD ($9,300) last year. Authorities also provided counseling and other humanitarian assistance to 125 victims who opted not to access shelter services. Humanitarian assistance included food, clothing, translation, and immediate medical services. The government provided a total of 226 victims with some form of assistance during the reporting period. The government reported shelter care was voluntary; victims could leave shelters at will and choose between shelter options, although shelters had curfews and occasionally measures were necessary to prevent victims from giving out shelter locations. Shelter services were not time limited and the government reported some victims staying up to 24 months at the shelters. Foreign and Guyanese victims received the same access to care and assistance. There were inadequate trafficking shelters for male or child trafficking victims and few employed trauma-trained staff. For child victims, the MHSSS provided intake counseling and then placed them either in a shelter co-managed with NGOs, which also could attend to adult victims in special circumstances, or in children’s homes the government owned and operated itself. MHSSS placed some children into foster care or reintegrated them with their families, while authorities placed adult male victims at non-specialized night shelters on an ad hoc basis.
According to authorities, law enforcement officials and social workers screened all individuals for indicators of human trafficking during raids for commercial sex violations and victims identified during such operations were not arrested. By the end of the reporting period, the government had not renewed a data sharing agreement with an international organization to collect data from vulnerable populations, including migrants. Victim assistance remained a serious concern in areas outside the capital and for Venezuelan, child, and male victims. In some instances, officials did not screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations, including Venezuelans, those working in the mining sector, and Cuban medical professionals working in the country. In February 2021, the GPF inadvertently publicly identified a potential trafficking victim and a witness; the MHSSS subsequently reprimanded the GPF and the GPF opened a criminal investigation. Courts ordered some human trafficking hearings or trials to be partially closed to the public in order to protect victims’ privacy and identities, and the government strongly advised the media to avoid taking photos of victims. The MoSP funded transportation costs and police escorts for victims staying outside a shelter who were willing to attend court proceedings. A victim provided testimony via video during the reporting period; authorities also permitted recorded statements. The government reported the quality of saved video recordings was generally poor and often compromised the viability of video evidence in trafficking prosecutions. Authorities allowed victims to obtain other employment or to leave the country pending trial proceedings and offered them psychological therapy before and after trial proceedings to help prevent re-traumatization. The government reported the appeal of a 2017 case in which the government required the trafficker to pay restitution without imprisonment, a penalty inconsistent with the law, was still pending at the end of the reporting period. Authorities offered deportation relief to 10 non-Venezuelan foreign victims, significantly fewer than the 135 foreign victims in 2019. Deportation relief allowed a victim to remain in Guyana regardless of being in breach of immigration laws; Venezuelans have been allowed to remain automatically since 2018. The government was authorized to grant foreign victims temporary residence status and work permits but received no such requests during the reporting period. Foreign victims received services irrespective of their cooperation with law enforcement, their participation in a trial, or whether their trafficker was convicted. The government regularly screened foreign potential victims for trafficking indicators before deportation. The government funded training for 168 MHSSS, labor, compliance, and forestry officials on victim identification and referral.